MORE than 70 Border Agency officials and police swooped on a Blackburn factory after being tipped off people were working there illegally.

Five business units in the former Brookhouse Mill, in Old Mill Street, were raided yesterday.

Two Indian men, aged 25 and 30, and a 33-year-old Pakistani man were arrested and detained for overstaying their visas during the operation.

All were working at Partner Clothing Ltd and are now awaiting removal from the UK.

The firm’s owners were issued with civil penalty notices for employing suspected illegal workers.

If they are unable to provide evidence that legally required checks were carried out before giving the workers a job a fine of up to £10,000 per illegal worker will be imposed.

A spokesman from Partner Clothing Ltd, which employs 11 people to make garments which are then sold in Manchester, said: “It was a real shock when immigration turned up at the door.

“We will always work with the authorities and we made sure we were as helpful as possible.

“When our workers were arrested we couldn’t believe it. They were new to the company and had only been working with us for one day. We had asked for their paperwork but with them being new they hadn’t brought it in yet.

“The raids scared my staff who wanted to run away when the police arrived. We had to send them home. We think it’s a good thing the police are conducting these checks. It’s just a shame it had to stop business for the day.”

During the raid Border Agency staff, together with police, said they rounded up around 30 people in the units before checking their identification.

Asmat Mehmood, who works at the Vehicle Repair Centre in the building, said: “Officers even checked me out. It’s OK, I have all the paperwork and I think they did a good job.

“It is usually really quiet around here so it was a real shock to see about 70 official and police dogs patrolling the area. People were just stood about watching.

“It was a surprise to see people being arrested.”

Asmat Shah, who works at unit two, Body Shop, said: “So many police arrived at once that I honestly thought there had been a robbery. It’s good checks on illegal workers are being carried out though.”

Kelly Mall, a supervisor at Indigo Raw, also in the building, said he was in the toilet when immigration officers went into his work place.

He said: “I was literally in the loo when there was this massive bang on the door. I thought they were going to come through it.

“There was lots of action with officers even walking around with police dogs.

“I had no idea illegal immigrants had been working next door to my work. I literally just keep myself to myself at work.”

The arrests form part of a nationwide campaign by the UK Border Agency to remove illegal immigrants from the UK.

Alison Wray, head of enforcement for the UK Border Agency in the North West, said: “We will continue to track down those who have no right to be living or working in the UK and yet remain here without permission.

“This was a successful operation unearthing three immigration offenders. The message is clear if you are here illegally we will find you, we will catch you and we will remove you from the UK.

Officers from Lancashire Constabulary, who supported yesterday’s raid, visited other businesses in the area to explain what was happening and to reassure the community.